Category Archives: Archived

Things That Keep Me Up At Night, January 2021 Edition

“There are two problems for our species’ survival— nuclear war and environmental catastrophe.” Noam Chomsky


“We should indeed be worried,” – Kingston Reif, a nuclear expert with the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C., regarding Donald Trump and the nuclear codes.

 

This week, Trump ordered the USS Nimitz, via his acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, to remain in the Persian Gulf. He said this was due to supposed Iranian threats “against President Trump and other U.S. government officials.”


In a statement, Miller said he had “ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment.” The carrier will now “remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations,” Miller added. “No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America.” In the last days of 2020, Trump ordered nuclear capable B-52 bombers to the Middle-East, prompting a senior Iranian military adviser to tweet directly at Trump, warning him “not to turn the New Year into a mourning for Americans.”


At this same time, congress has gone home for two weeks, while the governments of both Iraq and Iran have issued arrest warrants for Trump, for his illegal use of drone strikes that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last year.

Trump’s most loyal base remains the fundamentalist and far right fringe of evangelical Christians in the US, whose sole reason for believing in him lies in uncritical and unwavering US support of Israel, regardless of human rights abuses. Many of them see support of this country as key to scriptural prophecy. Many see our times as the “Last Days,” and Trump as a biblical King David. In addition to this, he has been under increasing pressure from both the Israeli and Saudi governments to take action on Iran.

To sum up: A deeply disturbed and increasingly unhinged Donald Trump still has complete control over the nuclear arsenal and submarines until January 20th. One senior adviser told the New York Times that he “has lost it.” And that he has been “impossible to talk to all day.

The laws of the US have been written such that the Commander and Chief has sole power over the use and launch of such weapons. Only impeachment or the 25th amendment to the Constitution stand in his way from launching a nuclear strike.

According to Forbes: “America’s roughly 6,200 nuclear warheads—and Trump’s sole command of them via a portable “biscuit” control system—hung like a specter over the proceedings. “The way our nuclear command and control works, all it should take for a nuclear launch order to be executed is that it be valid and legal,” said Ankit Panda, a nuclear expert and author of Kim Jong Un and the Bomb.“Any order issued by the president, provided he is properly able to authenticate his identity through the so-called ‘biscuit,’ would be regarded as valid.””

Up until the insurrection at the Capitol yesterday, Trump was refusing to accept defeat. He told the mob storming the building to go home, but couched it in the lie that the election was stolen from them. He has since agreed to an orderly transition. But his history is one rife with deception.


His words have often been somewhat cryptic, as if to send a secret message to his followers, who are appearing more and more like a religious cult than a political voting bloc. QAnon is not as weak as some might wish it to be. If he has any chance of retaining these fanatical followers without having to do a lot of work over the next four years, he must make good on some promises now.


Perhaps, he will be pushed back into the corner. Perhaps he will see this as detrimental to his future as a former president, reality star.

We can only hope.


But if this doesn’t make you tremble, or at least give you pause, you have no idea just how serious this current moment in history actually is.

 

Kenn Orphan January 2021

 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Georgia on my Mind: Notes from the Margins of Empire

What is unfolding in the US state of Georgia and in Washington DC are indeed historic events. I am beyond pleased that it appears that the proto-fascist Trump has once again lost. But, as we can see unfolding in the capitol right now, I don’t see him leaving office without sowing, or at least trying to sow, maximum chaos and damage.

He has already attempted an actual coup several times, even though the US corporate media would never characterize it as such. And he is still refusing to accept a Biden victory, holding maskless rallies with his feckless fans. Trump still has some rather frightening tricks in his bag. A strike on Iran? Calling on police or his white supremacist fans to become violent? None of this is beyond his capacity. Some of it is already happening. And any of it should make a sane person nervous.

If the military establishment feels the need to voice their opinion on a presidential election, which they have recently, you know it has to do with a coup or the attempt of one. Their job is to protect American economic interests, aka the coffers and trading status of the ruling class. And a coup, or the hint of one, in the world’s most powerful empire would be bad for business. So it is unlikely any coup attempt will succeed. In any case, the damage to confidence in the American imperial brand will have been done. In many cases, it has already been done.

And even with the Democrats taking the presidency and the senate, we should not expect any massive shift to the left. Over 70 million Americans voted for Trump, almost half of the voting public. In fact, Trump received more votes than in 2016, which is astonishing given his atrocious record of 357,000+ deaths from Covid 19. And we should remember that the Democratic establishment is still staunchly neoliberal capitalist, with a penchant for war.

Schumer, Pelosi and Biden all have long histories of aligning with Republicans on hawkish militarism and foreign policy, and blocking progressive reforms. And the Democrats will not have a super majority in the senate. Indeed, progressives have their work cut out for them, because centrist, corporate Democrats, along with their Republican colleagues, will throw up every barrier to economic change, and halts on an ever expanding American militarism, they can.

To be sure, the world is a different place than it was four years ago. It is vastly different than it was just a year ago, largely thanks to the global pandemic. But also due to mass movements that have taken place around the planet, from Minneapolis to Beirut to Santiago. And if there is any lesson to learn about pandemic politics, it is that the US imperial hegemony is irredeemably corrupt and incapable of leading in any way that is beneficial to humanity and the living earth, and this is true no matter which ruling class political party is at its helm.

In short, if this empire cannot even muster up the most meager provisions for its own struggling populace, including financial support and universal healthcare in the midst of a global pandemic, there can be no hope that it will do anything useful for them, or the rest of us, as we face the looming shocks of catastrophic climate change, economic collapse, ecological devastation, and the ever present threat of nuclear war. Its first and only priority was, is and will always be, the welfare of the wealthiest at any cost.

I hope the best for progressives in the US, because they will likely have to fight even harder against a tide of apathy that generally comes with liberal governments. I hope the best for my American leftist comrades, who must now traverse a neoliberal landscape where they will likely be chided for any dissenting stance they might take.

But I am more hopeful about the world on the margins of the American Empire, even those parts which lie within its artificially imposed borders. Not in the empty, self-serving platitudes of politicians, or the policy platforms written by and for multi-billion dollar conglomerates, or toxic nationalism either, but in solidarity with each other, where it counts.

Kenn Orphan  January 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Headlines and Stories from an Imagined 2021

The Pandemic is Over! As Ground Breaking new Vaccine is made Free to the Public. It was produced with complete transparency by a cooperative pharmaceutical collective, and without questionable practices. After hundreds of thousands perished, there is finally hope. Critical universal healthcare infrastructure is now in development to be ready for future outbreaks and the health needs of all people. In related news, as Big Pharma is dismantled, massive efforts are underway to tackle habitat loss, overdevelopment, factory farming, climate change and systemic poverty; factors that most likely contributed to the mutation and spread of the deadly pathogen in the first place. Scientists and policymakers are hopeful that the immense profits once hoarded by corporations will aid greatly in these efforts.

Billionaires Banished? Investigators are baffled by the disappearance of several prominent billionaires who were last seen boarding a small yacht in Hawaii for a three-hour tour, prior to rough weather. They reportedly packed a few bags full of cash, and some evening gowns and jewels, before fleeing aboard the tiny ship. This comes after Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos reportedly fled in a capsule bound for Mars. The billionaires were facing charges of aiding and abetting a coup to seize lithium in Bolivia and making obscene profits off of human misery during the pandemic.  

Following Massive General Strikes and Demonstrations, world leaders Agree to Meet the Demands of Billions of Workers. After mounting rage at the excesses and corruption of the capitalist class, the means of productions were successfully seized through organized dissent and sustained protest. Preparations are now underway for the permanent dismantling of the corporate, police/surveillance/war state, prioritizing large scale protections for the biosphere, immediate assistance for the impoverished, implementation of a living wage, free, quality healthcare, education and housing, support of the arts, an end to racist policing and incarceration, and the formation of the first Global Peoples Congress.

As Pentagon Budget Slashed, Economy is Revamped for the Benefit of All Humanity. Following major disinvestment in the police/surveillance/war state, money has been allocated on retraining troops for rebuilding infrastructure and communities across the country. All foreign US military bases are to be turned over to the nations where they are situated, as all weaponry is destroyed or transformed into medical and other useful equipment, machinery or even art work.  One of the last surviving veterans of World War 2 expressed his joy this way: “I fought in a war that was supposed to end all wars. It didn’t. But now my grand children and great grand children may have a chance at having a world free of militarism. A world where peace is imaginable.”

“The Occupation and Apartheid are Over!” declared one young Gazan, as Jews and Palestinians begin final negotiations for a transition to a secular, Democratic state for all people. Preparations are underway to allow for the right of return for refugees, guaranteed under international law. Spontaneous parties erupted across the West Bank, Jerusalem and even in Tel Aviv, where Jews, Palestinians and people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds were seen singing, dancing, sharing food and embracing. Related: Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly collapsed after hearing the news, while he was visiting the partially submerged resort, Mar-a-Lago in Florida, which was overtaken by sea waters recently. He was apparently with his friend, and owner of the soggy hotel, the disgraced reality star president Donald Trump, at the time. The two are also facing imminent indictment at the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Justice, at Last!” exclaimed one elderly Iraqi after hearing Bush, Cheney, others to face charges for War Crimes at the Hague. Erik Prince and other mercenaries for the now defunct American Empire will also face similar charges in coming weeks. George W. Bush was said to be despondent. He was last seen painting portraits of world leaders on his toenails in his cell prior to trial. Other charges will eventually be brought against Hillary Clinton for her role in the destruction of Libya, and Barack Obama for his deadly drone program.

“The Welfare of the Earth and All of Her Children, human and non, will Once Again be made Humanity’s First and Only Priority,” said one Native elder, while from the Americas, Australia to Africa, Indigenous peoples celebrate massive return of stolen lands and resources. Restoration and reconciliation ceremonies were conducted by Indigenous healers in various locations around the world, as musicians, artists, dancers, poets and other artisans joined. In related news, heads of the most lucrative corporations reluctantly relinquished their stranglehold on economic and political power, as most are facing charges for the crime of ecocide, neo-colonialism, and the plunder of indigenous resources.

Scientists Decipher Message from Intelligent Civilization just Lightyears from Earth. Apparently, after observing our planet for decades, the more advanced beings have offered critical assistance with our planet’s massive ecological crises. “We would not have been able to reverse the terrible damage of climate change, save the rainforests, the oceans, or humanity and billions of other species, without their knowledge,” claimed one biologist, as he broke down in tears of joy.

One can dream…

Kenn Orphan   January 2021 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

A Tribute to John le Carré

I wanted to write a tribute to a person who was very instrumental in my writing, and who died just this month, John le Carré, author of several famous spy novels, but I couldn’t find adequate words to describe this man. So I have decided, instead, to repost his epic essay “America has Gone Mad.” It was written in 2003 when the American Empire, under the war criminal George W. Bush, lead a war of destruction against Iraq, a country that had never attacked it, yet sat on the world’s second biggest oil reserves. Nearly two decades later and that war based on lies is still reaping carnage in the entire region. Sadly, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that any of what he has written has changed in the least.

“America has Gone Mad”

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell you which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America can hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all of this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. …

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win, Daddy?”

“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”“But will people be killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child, and go to sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is also Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.

John le Carré (19 October 1931 – 12 December 2020)

Rest in Power.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

It’s true. 2020 is a year most of us will be glad to bid farewell to. For frontline workers, those in healthcare and essential services like grocery store workers, delivery, and transportation, the year has been the most difficult and terrifying. Government and corporate services have been scant and fall far short of the adequate protections working people need, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. But artists, poets, musicians, writers and independent journalists have also found this year especially challenging because we are all too often forgotten or marginalized within the ranks of society’s labour force. The contributions and services we provide for mental, emotional and spiritual health, as well as toward continued independent, critical thought and analysis of our political and social landscape, are generally looked at with an indifferent eye under the paradigm of late capitalism. And many resources have been either reallocated elsewhere or simply do not exist.

Therefore, it is with great humility that I ask for donations this year. I understand most of us are struggling; and there is absolutely no obligation or guilt implied with this request. As with previous fundraisers for this site, this one does not place any requirements upon the reader. Whether one is able to donate or not, all articles and access will remain free, and there will never be any government or corporate advertisements, sponsorships, or underwriters. Also, my editorial support from the exemplary Elena Baudelaire and technical assistance from Patrick Hanaway will continue.

We are all looking forward to 2021 as being a fresh start. We look forward to an end to the pandemic, but also for a beginning of meaningful dissent and liberation from our existentially devastating status quo, including militarism and endless wars, economic disenfranchisement, political and corporate tyranny, social oppression, and the ecocide of our precious biosphere. Personally, I look forward to working with other writers and activists, continued writing and critical analysis for this site, more guest writers, poets, thinkers, philosophers, bards and other artists, as well as a few other exciting and fascinating prospects, including a fiction I am currently working on.

I wish you all a truly magnificent Solstice and New Year. And thanks in advance for your support, whether it be in sharing my pieces, the contribution of ideas or informed criticism, monetary assistance, or any of the above.

If you would like to donate monetarily, simply click on the link below and use PayPal.
https://kennorphan.com/donate/

Kenn Orphan December 2020

*Title art piece is The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.

Only the Broken Heart can Expand

My heart is sore today. The pain is raw and it feels as if a giant chasm of emptiness stretches out in front of me. The loss of my gentle companion, a feline that provided me immeasurable comfort and joy for years and in some of my darkest hours, has struck me deeper than I imagined. There are layers to this pain, indeed. But our modern life often robs us of the agency to express our pain or sorrow out of fear of judgement or ridicule, especially when it is related to the loss of a non-human being. It is all too often trivialized. And this trivialization has become normalized.

But of course, I am reminded that this is the same societal paradigm that has trivialized the living biosphere itself. It is a pathology which has allowed for its wholesale destruction for the accumulation of coin and the lure of convenience for the few. If the cries of the billions of species it crushes under its busy, productive feet were made audible, the entire human species would be permanently deafened from the colossal lament.

Whenever I am in pain, I retreat to the world of imagination, and music, and art. Today I came across this self portrait of Frida Kahlo done in 1940. I have a small replica I bought as a souvenir in Mexico City years ago. As is the case with most of Kahlo’s paintings, this one is drenched in symbolism.

The hummingbird, usually a symbol of life and vitality, is dead and hanging from a necklace of thorns. Thorns which pierce Frida’s delicate skin. Perhaps it is reminiscent of Christ’s crown of thorns and the pain he suffered carrying the weight of the world’s sorrows. Or perhaps it is Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, and perhaps it is its weight that is causing her injury. And the butterflies and dragonflies on her head may be symbols of resurrection or renewal. But the neckless is being held by a black monkey, perhaps a symbol of the indifferent torment she endured throughout her life. And a black cat, one very much the appearance of the dear loved one I just lost, stands just to the back of her. Although she is undoubtedly in pain from the thorns, Frida stands calmly, stoically, as if daring the world to hurt her more.

As I pondered the meaning of this portrait I thought about her life, one fraught with disappointment, rejection, grief and extreme physical pain from a horrendous streetcar accident when she was only 18 years old. Along with a tumultuous relationship with artist Diego Rivera, she had to endure at least 35 agonizing surgeries on her spine and body throughout her entire life. She was often bedridden for months at a time. And yet there she is, staring it all down. Through the pain into quiet dignity. Frida actually had a monkey and a black cat, among other animals, birds and plants. I marveled at the many photographs of her holding them and caring for them when I visited her home, Casa Azul, in Mexico City.

Frida lived her life as an open wound, open for the world to see. She displayed her pain as one would display an accessory to wear out to the market or to a concert. It was beautiful because it was true. And this gave me a peculiar sort of strength. We cannot traverse this terrestrial plane without facing pain, and loss, and sorrow. Again and again and again. Bursting through the walls of our heart. These are the very signatures of life and of love. And in a time of unprecedented ecocide and endless assaults on our biosphere by a society unable to face or grapple with its demons and shadows, continuously numbed by distraction, and spectacle, and avarice, and substances, and cruelty, and materialism, unable to feel its pain, we are called to do just that. Face it. And express our pain, and loss, and sorrow. Publicly. Daring the world to hurt us again. Because, without a doubt, it will. It will break your heart. But remember this, it is only the broken heart that has the capacity to expand.

Kenn Orphan December 2020

Epilogue for a Dying Star

Today, I am deeply honoured to feature a poem by one of the most prolific, talented and graciously human thinkers of our time: poet, singer/songwriter, playwright and political journalist, editor, and activist, Sandy Leonvest.

 

 

          Damn the world

and all its pain.

 

          I am feeling light

at the moment,

so just let me be.

 

          Lighter

than the child

with a gift for song,

who spent

long summer nights

spinning threads of sorrow

into grace notes,

and weaving

bright white lies

into snowflakes,

while dancing

for her life;

 

          Lighter

than the moth

who once imagined

herself

a butterfly

in the fleeting reflection

of a mother’s eyes …

 

          Lighter than dust

drifting amid the soaring souls

of the newly departed,

where I once followed

my mother

into the womb

during a moment

of dreaming;

 

          Lighter even

than a cloudless sky

just after a summer storm,

giving rise to a brand new star,

Or the first moon of December

waxing faithfully

over a war-weary world,

to share its luminous nature

with snow-capped mountains

and rivers of melting ice.

 

~Sandy LeonVest has, over the course of her writing career, been a poet, playwright, singer-songwriter, political journalist – radio and print – and the editor/publisher of SolarTimes (solartimes.org), a groundbreaking energy publication and newspaper distributed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from 2006 through 2013. Today she spends most of her time writing poetry and fiction, which she believes was “who she meant to be all along.” Sandy’s poems capture the spirit of the 21st century, with all of its circularities and contradictions – fathomless beauty and incomprehensible ugliness; infinite joy and endless grieving; and the inevitability of “the ever-spinning circle.” Sorrowful endings followed by new beginnings. Her poetic voice seems to channel the poets of long ago, at once emanating from another era, yet echoing universal and timeless themes.

 

Title photo is the Helix Nebula, a dying star that is 650 lightyears from our world. Source: NASA.

The Person Who Chooses to Dance

Today, I am happy to welcome back guest writer Phil Rockstroh with a powerful piece on love and its mysteries. I am also immensely pleased to feature a lovely piece of artwork by my sister, Cheryl Orphan. A painting entitled “Social Distancing.”

I remember a vast, comforting, sublime aloneness in childhood. A sense of being embraced by an infinite, knowing order — of being held in warmth, by a power, by a loving consciousness beyond words.

No one knows where one is going…We are pulled forth on currents of mystery…that are more like songs’ sound waves than following the itinerary of a travel plan.

In childhood, in dreams, I walked with God and elephants. The world was made of music, infinite song. It was the kind of love in which there was no blame, no burden. No apologies needed to be proffered because all things were present and aglow with light and smelling of earthen loam.

Love need not be conjured — it is built into the scenery, swells from the orchestra pit, flows from the stage lights of a theatre built and scripted by Love itself.

When you gaze upon lovers you are looking into the architecture of yourself. When you know this you will give love in abundance knowing its source is inexhaustible. Notice: Life seems more bearable now.

Thus you are granted an ardour to praise what is beautiful and love what is flawed. The world is the face of the beloved, born from an exquisite music.

The person who chooses to dance to this music does so in a room of Divinity. Your life has become a great song.

Phil Rochstroh  is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at https://www.facebook.com/groups/513128662505890/

Title art piece is a painting by Cheryl Orphan entitled “Social Distancing,” acrylic on canvas, 2020

Before the Champagne is Popped…

Biden won. Trump lost. I am pleased the orange proto-fascist lost. But before the champagne bottles start popping there are a few things we should remember.

Biden won. Trump lost. But it should have been a landslide. It wasn’t. In fact, the Democrats lost a lot of ground in other key races. A few QAnon folks are now going to Washington. And the Supreme Court has now decisively shifted even more toward the right. This has all kinds of implications, but the most obvious is that the American Empire is both deeply divided and shifting ever rightward. Fascism has always lain under the surface of American society, but the veil was completely ripped off over these past four years.

Biden won. Trump lost. But Trump will not go gracefully. He is already calling it fraud and challenging the results. And his sons and other unhinged sycophants are calling for a war. Literally, a war. Don’t forget the plot to kidnap a US governor. Don’t forget Amy Coney Barrett. Don’t forget Bush v. Gore. Don’t forget that Trump had the backing of many police departments, ICE, and countless white supremacist groups. Don’t forget that there was a surge in weapons sales in the run up to the election. Don’t forget that there a lot of people who feel very threatened right now. Threatened that their status in a society is at risk. Threatened that “communism” or “cultural Marxism,” as ridiculous as it sounds, will sweep through the country. In fact, the threat of violence and unrest has never been higher than it is now. I urge my American comrades to be vigilant and careful.

Biden won. Trump lost. But remember that Biden is not MLK. He isn’t Malcolm X. He isn’t Gandhi. He isn’t Mandela. He isn’t even a good person. He was just the only alternative offered up by the ruling class to oppose a proto-fascist who emerged from that same ruling class. The US remains a dictatorship of money. But it was Black, Brown and Native people who made this victory possible because they have the most at stake. If Biden and the Democrats toss them aside, which they will likely do, or if he maintains the status quo and continues neoliberal policies, which appears inevitable, another Trump will emerge. And the next one will be far more formidable, dangerous and terrifying. The question is, will white American liberals fall back asleep for the next four years, or will they come to realize that problems like racist police violence and economic inequity are systemic and structural? And that the Democratic Party has no plan to address any of this in any meaningful way?

Biden won. Trump lost. But do we really want to return to “normal” as I have seen so many white liberals say in recent days? What was normal? No healthcare for working people and the poor? Continuing police brutality? Growing income inequity? Continued subsidies for corporations? The fossil fuel industry? The arms industry? Record deportations of immigrants, as what occurred under Obama? Drone bombing wedding parties and ambulances in Afghanistan? More support for despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia? Or military juntas in Egypt or Honduras? Or apartheid in Israel/Palestine? The steady destruction of the environment thanks to unbridled industry? Does any person of conscience really want to return to “normal?”

Biden won. Trump lost. But the dissolution of the American Empire will happen regardless of this election because it is failing in all the ways empire’s fail. It may take decades (Rome did not fall in a day), but on its current trajectory, it is inevitable. And truthfully, that is the best prospect for humanity and a living biosphere.

It comes down to this: If we don’t understand Trump to be a symptom, we will be missing the lethal disease we are collectively afflicted with. If we don’t understand that the current political, social and economic order is pathological, we will merely perpetuate its cruelty by actively or tacitly giving it a veneer of credibility.

Kenn Orphan November 2020

Thoughts from the Margins of an Empire in Decline

Since my recent piece I have been barraged with messages, tags, etc. Several have requested I weigh in on their personal pages with friends of theirs who may have objected to some of what I had to say or who are demanding I produce “solutions” to the problem of American Empire. I am sorry but I don’t have the time to get to all of these requests. But I appreciate people taking time to really think through the issues and what I had written. Thinking and discussing are good things.

As I stated in my piece, the only hope we have is for the dissolution of the American Empire if we want to have a livable future. This was mistaken by some to mean that there is a plan for this in the works or that ordinary people have control over this. The truth is that ordinary people do, in fact, have agency, but only when they organize en masse and in solidarity to fully disrupt the power arrangement. Outside of this, we are at the whims of the powerful and the caprice of societal trends and schisms.


Whatever the outcome of this election (and at this point it appears, predictably, that Biden will win and Trump will do everything within his power to sow chaos and discord), the American Empire will hobble on for several more years. If Biden wins, many white Liberals will likely go back to sleep, ignoring the cries of Black and Brown people besieged by a racist police state and the agony of millions of foreign victims of America’s brutal military/surveillance state. I have already seen many of them say they “look forward to getting back to normal.”

But what was normal? No healthcare for working people and the poor? Continuing police brutality? Growing income inequity? Continued subsidies for corporations? The fossil fuel industry? The arms industry? Record deportations of immigrants, as what occurred under Obama? Drone bombing wedding parties and ambulances in Afghanistan? More support for despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia? Or military juntas in Egypt or Honduras? Or apartheid in Israel/Palestine? The steady destruction of the environment thanks to unbridled industry? Of course, if Trump somehow manages to win the swift slide toward a more overt fascism will be inevitable. But does any person of conscience really want to return to “normal?”


To be sure, the American Empire has been in a state of decline for the last 20 years. So its eventual dissolution is inevitable. This may take decades (Rome didn’t fall in a day), but it will dissolve because it is failing in all the ways empires fail. Bloated, over extended and expensive military and the accompanying occupations and forays. Disintegrating social safety nets. Growing economic shocks, insecurity and disparity between rich and poor. Ecological devastation and depletion. General lack of confidence in a unifying imperial ethos among its subjects. It isn’t alone in this. China and Russia are facing similar prospects. But the American Empire remains the most powerful and wealthy hegemony on the planet.


So I think it is more constructive to realize that we have no power over this dissolution. What we do have power over is how we organize and react to it. On an individual basis this might mean some tough choices like relocating. On a broader basis, this might mean joining or building resilient communities in places as far as possible from the epicenter of the empire’s collapse, since that is where most of the chaos will be located.
But my piece was not primarily intended for an American audience. It was written for the rest of us. Those of us living on the margins of empire, outside of its physical borders, yet are subject to its ruthless rule in various ways. Incidentally, this would include Native peoples who reside on bantustans within the empire itself.

I respectfully encourage my American readers to remember that their government, military and intelligence agencies have and continue to interfere in the political, economic and social affairs of virtually every other nation and region on the planet. Therefore, we have every right to voice our rage, and owe you no explanation or “solutions” to your problems. We care about the poorest and most vulnerable among you, but we simply want your empire to fall for the sake of humanity and the entire planet.


I care deeply for my friends and family in the US. I care especially for those who will face oppression, poverty and violence no matter who gets elected. But right now my concern is more for those living on the margins of American Empire. Because they are, and have always been, the main victims of its ruthless bellicosity, exploitation and belligerence.

Kenn Orphan November 2020

  • Title painting is The Course of Empire, Destruction, 1836, by Thomas Cole. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York